The University of Alabama has over 480 different student organizations on campus. At the beginning of each semester, students fill the streets for Get On Board Day (GOBD) where they’re bombarded by a plethora of different groups that battle to the death to get students on their e-mail lists. Many Honors students attend GOBD, however, Honors students at UA are a collection of extremely diverse individuals and may feel they are alone in the love of their pastime. With this in mind, Mosaic set out to explore some of the most wonderfully interesting and unique student organizations on campus with honors students as members.
The collegiate a cappella music scene has changed drastically throughout the past decade. This style of singing which some have seen as old-fashioned has now been revitalized by this generation and propelled into the spotlight.
“A lot of times when people ask about us, the first question is, ‘Is it going to be like Pitch Perfect?‘” said Allyson Azar, president of UA a cappella group, No Strings Attached. “And we’re like, ‘no.’ We don’t want to disappoint, but at the same time it got people more interested in a cappella groups in general. So they ask, ‘well, okay-what do y’all do?’
No Strings Attached (NSA) is the University’s first co-ed a cappella group, rising like a phoenix from the ashes of Subject to Change, an all-male a cappella group that disbanded in 2012. A few original members, including Nicky Bolus and Connor Dugan of the Honors College, decided to organize a brand new a cappella group that would incorporate a different segment of the population: women. This added a whole new dimension and texture to their sound. The group performs around campus and has two annual concerts in the spring and fall.
Here is just a glimpse of the talented No Strings Attached singing “Run To You” by Pentatonix:
Though it is true that some people think of collegiate a cappella groups in the same manner as Pitch Perfect or Glee, there are some big differences. For instance, the movie Pitch Perfect actually combines the sound of an a cappella vocal group with the performance of a show choir, resulting in a much more dramatic style.
“Everything is dubbed up, and there are obviously drums in the background,” Dugan said.
So movies like Pitch Perfect and shows like Glee have to work the movie and TV magic to make it sound the best it possibly can, which is hard to attain in real life.
“You could go to a Pentatonix concert and not get half the performance you see in that movie,” Dugan added.
With such a wide range of members with diverse musical tastes, it could be very hard to agree on what songs to learn. No Strings Attached has a very democratic way of answering that question. Each member brings their ideas to rehearsal, and then they all vote collectively by personal preference. Next the officers narrow down the options by availability of arrangements that they find online, which usually need to be free.
“The members place a lot of trust in the officers to choose the right songs for the group while keeping within the financial constraints,” Bolus said.
As many people with extracurricular activities know, it can be difficult to balance responsibilities with a hobby that you really enjoy. The members of No Strings Attached practice every Monday and Wednesday at 9:15 p.m. in the Moody Music Building, however, the late nights and hard work turn out to be a much-needed artistic outlet for them.
“Without a way to connect with friends and do something creative, school would be unmanageable,” Bridget Gordinier, a second year nursing major, added.
“It’s really nice to do something totally different than I’ve been doing for the past 18 years of my life,” Dugan said.
The No Strings Attached members say they really cherish the friendships and connections they have made because of this group.
“I’ve gotten to know some of the people in No Strings Attached better than my peers in the engineering college,” Bolus said.
Jill Pocius, a second-year music therapy major in the Honors College, notes that being a No Strings Attached officer is a great leadership opportunity, and it is interesting to see how everyone takes on their specific roles to make a beautiful product together.
“We would love to do more gigs around campus and have people think of us to entertain whenever an event is thrown,” Azar said.
No Strings Attached hopes to be able to travel and enter competitions soon. They have already received some offers from other universities to collaborate and compete with other collegiate a cappella groups but have yet to do so mainly because of financial constraints. As for the future of No Strings Attached, all of the members hope to grow the group with more talented voices as well as getting some composers to help arrange new music to bring a completely original sound to the group.
“The most important thing for No Strings Attached is to get our name out there,” Azar said.